With Nature & Politics, Thomas Struth told BJP back in 2017, he hopes to “open doors to what our minds have materialised and transformed into sculpture, and to scrutinise what our contemporary world creates in places which are not accessible to most people”. Shot at industrial sites and scientific research centres throughout the world over the last 10 years, the large-scale colour images show the strange contraptions created at the cutting-edge of technology.
But these images also, he told BJP, say something about his own relationship to the world, and the place in which he finds himself at this particular point in time. “I am an observer and participant in contemporary culture, and what matters to me is that I can only being something new depending on my situation in my own life,” he said. “When I was at school, 1984 seemed like a futuristic date. To have reached the age of 62 feels incredibly strange and choking, and to acknowledge the reality that I have perhaps 20 or 25 years left. There are complex evaluations that play a role in what I am attracted to, and I try to find the pictorial equivalent.”
“The new Photography Centre brings to life some of the V&A’s most beautiful original picture galleries and provides a permanent home for one of the finest and most inspiring collections of photography in the world,” says Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at the V&A. “The spaces and facilities allow visitors to access, explore and enjoy photography in its many forms.
“The Photography Centre encompasses more than a new gallery space. Beyond its walls lies an associated programme of research, digitisation, learning activities, publications, exhibitions, access to items in stores, and collaborations with other UK and international partners. Photography is one of our most powerful forms of global communication, and I’m thrilled that we can contextualise the past and present of this powerful medium in new and exciting ways.”
It’s an important development for photography in the UK and it opens on Friday – the V&A’s new Photography Centre, which more than doubles the museum’s existing photography space.
Those who have had the pleasure of ambling along the corridors of the 17th-century building at the heart of the museum district in Kensington, London, will recall the Victoria and Albert Museum’s high ceilings and impressive galleries, with polished floors and walls adorned with historical oil canvases, all connected by staircases embellished with intricate mosaics.
Climbing one such stairwell in a far corner of the building, you surface to face two tall, fudge-brown doors with shiny handles. The pair of robust glass cabinets framing these doors are currently empty, but will soon be packed with some 300 cameras and image-making devices. To one side, a long wooden table will be laden with models of some of the first cameras – a large format perched on a tripod, a Rolleiflex, a camera obscura and 35mm camera. Visitors will be invited to play around and put themselves in the shoes of the photographers who used these devices, pausing to peek through the lenses and take note of this new way of looking and constructing an image of the world on the other side. It is a sculptural array of the golden age of photography, the grand entrance to the new photography centre, opening its first phase to the public on 12 October.
He’s best-known for his work with British and Italian Vogue, but Tim Walker is also a successful solo artist, opening his third solo show at London’s V&A on 07 September (his first two were also in London, at the Design Museum in 2008, and at Somerset House in 2012). The exhibition will feature a “brand new body of work inspired by the V&A’s collection,” stated V&A director Tristram Hunt as he announced the show yesterday, adding: “He will work his magic and come up with a series of photos.”
Starting his career by working in the Condé Nast picture library, where he worked on the Cecil Beaton archive for a year before university, Walker went on to assist Richard Avedon and shot his first story for Vogue at the age of 25. Famous for his use of elaborate sets, Walker is collaborating with celebrated British art director Shona Heath on his V&A show, which will include photographs, films, sets and installations around the museum.
The Walther Collection has kicked off an 18-month exploration of vernacular photography with a show titled The Shadow Archive: An Investigation into Vernacular Portrait Photography. Taken from the 1850s to the present day, the collected portraits depict groups such as ‘migrant laborers’, ‘inmates of an asylum’, ‘criminal photographs’, and ‘G&G Precision Works Photographic Identity Badges’, and, says the organisers, show how “identification photographs have been used to sort, shape, segregate, and select subjects based on occupation, social group, body type, or political affiliation”. The title references a phrase used by writer and photographer Allan Sekula to reference “the entire social field of human representations, comprising both heroes and deviants, within which every portrait takes its place as part of a moral hierarchy”.
London’s Hayward Gallery is reopening with a huge Andreas Gursky retrospective on 25 January, celebrating its 50th anniversary and its return after a comprehensive two-year refurbishment. The first major retrospective of the acclaimed German photographer in the UK, Andreas Gursky will include around 60 of images from the 1980s to the present day. Focusing on man-made structures and large gatherings of people. Gursky’s images draw attention to our changing relationship with the natural world, and chronicle the effects of globalisation on daily life; his subjects range from a crowded techno music festival in Germany (May Day IV, 2000/2014), to an underground water tank in the Kamioka Nucleon Decay Experiment in Japan (Kamiokande, 2007), in which a boat glides amid a gold-studded interior. “I only pursue one goal,” he has said, “the encyclopedia of life”.
Foto/Industria Biennial returns to Bologna, with 14 exhibitions centring around the idea of identity and illusion in photographs of work, curated by Francois Hébel and including image-makers such as Thomas Ruff, Josef Koudelka, Lee Friedlander, Joan Fontcuberta, Alexander Rodchenko, Mitch Epstein, Yukichi Watabe, John Myers and Michele Borzoni.
On the face of it, Thomas Ruff has radically altered course since his first major series brought him to international fame in the mid-1980s. He followed his portraits of fellow students at the Düsseldorf Art Academy (where he was studying photography with the legendary Bernd and Hilla Becher) with photographs of modern architecture in the 1987-1991 series Hauser, and then began working with appropriated images. His 1989 series, Sterne, used astronomical panoramas from the European Southern Observatory, for example, while his Zeitungsfotos made during the 1990s took images culled from newspapers. Over the following decade he has continued working with the vernacular, incorporating source material such as manga comics which he manipulated into colourful abstractions (Substrat), highly pixellated images he downloaded from the internet (Jpegs), and an archive of glass negatives found in a factory archive from the 1930s and 40s (Machines). But while Ruff is happy to admit his techniques change from series to series, the concept behind his work has remained consistent. In an interview for his latest catalogue he told Hans Ulrich …
The shortlisted images for “the global award in photography and sustainability” go on show at the V&A this month, including work by Thomas Ruff, Rinko Kawauchi and many more
Press++, an exhibition of new works by the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie star graduate Thomas Ruff, the artist’s first solo show in London, is about to go on show at David Zwirner gallery.